Alistair Thornton is a Beijing-based economic analyst.
As Beijing makes the final preparations for its 60th anniversary National Day celebrations tomorrow, the political elite in Zhongnanhai are no doubt itching with child-like anticipation. The city is going to have an enormous daytime parade (showcasing China's impressive military hardware) and a raucous evening gala (complete with actually-quite-tedious-after-a-while firework displays and synchronised dance routines).
But despite the excitement on the streets, I have a sinking feeling that this could turn out to be the worst PR stunt of all time. To me, it screams, 'Hey! You in the West! How's the recession? We just nailed 9% growth. Scared of a rising China? Check out all of our tanks and never-seen-before missiles'. It's not really the vibe you want to give off in the midst of unprecedented shifts in geopolitical power.
It does appear, however, that some in the military establishment are aware of how it could be perceived. General Gao Jianguo recently stressed that 'the display of military might is not about intimidating China's neighbours but a celebration of the country's achievements, something that is widely done around the world on such occasions'. I’m not sure I remember the last time I saw tanks circling Trafalgar Square, but then again, maybe that's because, in depressingly secular decline, us Brits have less to celebrate.
Photo by Flickr user gadgetdan, used under a Creative commons license.